- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

12:24 p.m.

In a playoff series that looks like a mismatch, the good news for the Washington Mystics is a WNBA format that gives them Game 1 at home.

The Mystics (18-16), who finished the regular season above .500 for the second time in franchise history, take on the top-seeded Connecticut Sun (26-8) tomorrow night to open their best-of-three Eastern Conference series.

The Sun will be home for Game 2 on Sunday and Game 3, if necessary, on Tuesday. The Mystics haven’t won at the Mohegan Court arena since 2003, the year the Sun franchise moved from Orlando, Fla.

“This first game is probably the biggest game of the year for us,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “It’s probably giving us a better opportunity by playing at home, especially since we haven’t won in Connecticut in quite a while.”

The Mystics were stellar at home (13-4) this year and miserable on the road (5-12). They won their last five at the Verizon Center, helping the team reach a franchise-record 18 wins.

Leading scorer Alana Beard (19.2 points per game) is one of the game’s most exciting players. Nikki Teasley averaged a league-best 5.4 assists and has won a title with Los Angeles. Veteran forward Crystal Robinson is expected to return after missing the last seven games with a sprained left ankle.

However, the Sun boasts five all-stars and the best two-year stretch by any Eastern Conference team. The team has won a total of 52 games and made back-to-back appearances in the WNBA finals. It went 14-3 at home this year and will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Sun also brings a very deep bench. All-Star Nykesha Sales missed 12 games because of injury this year, and the Sun barely blinked, winning 11 without her. Katie Douglas, MVP of the All-Star game, averaged 21.3 points against the Mystics this season, nearly five points above her season average.

Looking for history as a guide? The Mystics and Sun have played three times this year. The Mystics won in Washington, and the Sun won twice in Connecticut.

“We don’t have anything to lose,” Adubato said. “We know anything can happen in the playoffs. That’s one thing you learn in professional sports. This is a short series.”

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